The Texas players were quick to say during the week that the 2010 loss to UCLA -- at the time the worst home loss in the Mack Brown era -- didn't weigh heavily on their collective minds. That this wasn't about revenge.
But for the fans, the trauma from last September was still alive and real as the 'Horns made their way out to California. Despite all the positive changes in the program, the book was not going to close on that 34-12 loss until definitive proof emerged that the 2011 football team bears little resemblance to the 2010 disaster.
Consider the book closed following the convincing 49-20 win. Mack Brown and his coaches will have some teaching points during the bye week after turnovers by Jaxon Shipley and Malcolm Brown, but overall, the Longhorns were the more physically dominant team a year after being physically dominated. The Longhorns were the more disciplined team a year after being less disciplined. The Longhorns were the aggressor defensively forcing turnovers a year after committing them by the handful.
There were a lot of things to feel good about in this performance and the sight of Texas fans celebrating at the Rose Bowl is always welcome.
A few more quick thoughts after some jump...
- Please welcome the tight end position back to the offense at Texas. It was nearly four years ago that a Texas tight end had a huge play on offense -- Jermichael Finley in the Cotton Bowl in 2007. DJ Grant's 45-yard touchdown catch represented the longest catch since that game and Grant's six catches for 77 yards and three touchdowns could be the type of break-out performance at the position a long time in coming. After a knee injury only slightly less severe than that suffered by Blaine Irby -- Grant tore two ligaments and his hamstring on a fateful play practicing in 2008 -- seeing Grant show that type of explosiveness has to warm the heart of Texas fans.
- Remember when the secondary was a concern after losing all those cornerbacks and getting less-than-ideal production from the safety position? Yeah, seems as if it was way in the past, doesn't it? Carrington Byndom, Adrian Phillips, and Quandre Diggs are all already making plays against the pass and standing tall against the run, while Kenny Vaccaro -- Machete -- was all over the field with an interception of his own and 11 tackles. Even Blake Gideon showed up around the football and helped contribute to the big interception by Adrian Phillips by tipping the pass.
- Manny Diaz is a wizard. What else is there to really say about his schemes? No wonder those SEC offensive coordinators couldn't wait to get rid of him after only a season.
- I haven't always believed that Case McCoy could be a competent starter at Texas, but he proved his capability at the college level with a Colt-like line of 12-15 for 168 yards and two touchdowns, showing off the playmaking ability that defined his older brother by keeping plays alive and making throws outside the pocket, where Case is clearly more comfortable. And there was something incredibly comforting about seeing a McCoy jog off the field victorious following the game.
- Don't look now, but Texas wide receivers have completed all three passes attempted this season, with two going for touchdowns and the third icing the game against BYU. Looks like those trick plays are working. Praise Harsinwhite.
- Once again, the Longhorns finished strong in the fourth quarter, but decided to complement a strong finish with a strong start, scoring 14 big first-quarter points after only three combined in the first two games. Starting Malcolm Brown helped...
- The true freshman from Cibolo Steele is the real deal. His combination of patience, vision, and tough running style is translating to the college game better and more quickly than I anticipated. Always nice to be wrong about those type of things. It was Brown's first 100-yard game at Texas and the performance should be the first of many.
- The special teams are still an issue, particularly on kick coverage. But that's the only nitpick for now.
- Mack Brown said during the week before the Rice game that if opponents wanted to get at Texas, they had better do it quickly. Oklahoma still looms as a monumental task in three weeks, but this Longhorn squad is rapidly improving -- that advantage for the Sooners could decrease at a rapid rate over that period.